I was born in Northern Louisiana, my hometown was called Winnsboro, it was a and still is a thriving village of some five thousand souls its also the parish seat of Franklin Parish, in Louisiana, counties are called parishes. Now before I go any further allow me to say this. Northern Louisiana is different from the rest of the state. I'm sure the name 'Louisiana' conjures up images of cobblestone paved streets, street cars, voodoo priestess, mounds of steamed shrimp, seasoned with crushed red peppers. And of course mounds of fresh fried chicken, with a golden crust, pipping hot beignets served along side mugs of coffee that been flavored with chicory and weakened with warm milk.
That a yes and a no. That part of Louisiana is down south. Some three hundred or so miles as the crow flies. The region Winnsboro resides in, is different. The differences are too many to list here, and I'll not be diving down that rabbit hole. Moving on now.
Now each year, normally around the Spring thaw, that is when the first green shoots of grass start appearing in the fields and the ground is finally warm enough to till and plant. Our little town of Winnsboro holds a small celebration of such. The whole length of downtown is closed to motor traffic for the day. Local bands provided live music, local craftsmen set up booths and sell hand made objects like bird houses, wooden swords, wooden shields, the pawn shops fling open there doors and offer a wide variety of novelty items for sell.
Beside local craftsmen, hawking and peddling there wares, there also a dozen or so food trucks on hand to meet the needs of the crowds. Classic stables such as Fried Chicken tenders, cheeseburgers, hamburgers, corn dogs, popcorn, chili dogs, polish sausage severed piled high with grilled peppers add to the flavor of the fair. Of course this being Louisiana there going to fried catfish, frog legs, boiled shrimp and crayfish for sale too. Just be ready to shell out the dollars for those.
Now beside the live music, the arts and crafts, and the food there's also dozens of side shows and games. The two main ones being the 'Pitch till you Win' that's always sponsored by the Lion's Club and the 'Dunking Booth' that always sponsored by the local Episcopalian school "St. Andrews Episcopal School." And by tradition, the cheerleaders of St. Andrews staff and ran the booth.
The dunking booth was always located toward the middle of main street. The dunking booth was a monster of a machine. The bottom tank was taller than most girls and wider than table. To get to the seat getting up to the drop seat required you to employee the use of a step-ladder. Once you where seated, you then noticed your a good three feet from the water. Sitting up there, you felt like you where perched over a vast lake of freezing cold water and the water indeed was often colder than a well diggers bottom.
The air was buzzing with excitement, people from all walks of life where flooding downtown. I was fourteen at the time and was in my freshman year at St. Andrew's Episcopal School. I had chosen to wear my hair in two, high pigtails that morning. I thought it suited since I was wearing my cheerleaders uniform. A red and white pleated skirt that reached down to my knees. And a red and white top that had the big, bold letters 'AEP' sewn onto the chest. I was surrounded by three or four of my team mates, all of us had been volunteered or selected to take part in this stunt. St. Andrew's was a small school, being a mostly private school and one that placed heavy emphasis on the old 'Episcopal Values ' of the faith, as such the student body only numbered around three or four hundred students in all grades. I often considered it a wonder how we could field a full football team and a full team of cheerleaders to cheer them on.
But back to the story, the booth had been open for about a hour now. I was on 'Ball Fetching' duty that is, walking around area of the tank and picking up the stray tennis balls that lay scattered about. Each ball I picked up, I would toss into a large, white, laundry basket. Since balls where going at four for a dollar, we had several dozen on hand. All provided by the 'Elk's Club' the social playground for the upper-crust men of the town.
Anyway, as I went about my task of collecting balls. My eyes always returned to the girl sitting on the tank. She was a senior, had long blonde hair, sun-kissed bronze colored skin. Her raven hair hung down over her shoulders, large droplet of water dripped down from the ends. Like me, she wore the stander cheerleaders uniform, save she was bare footed. Her discarded white sneakers and ankle socks having been tossed to the side.
She also seemed quite cold as she sat there, her legs curving in, her bottom perched at the far end of the seat. Her hands folded and placed in her lap. A cute little laugh or giggle escaped her lips with each passing ball. Her name was Brook Windfield, and she was my idol, I think she was the idol of every freshman girl. Twice she been named 'Homecoming Queen' and finally being named Co-Captain her Junior year and full captain her Senior year. This on top of being reward a full scholarship to LSU ( Louisiana Statue University). She had in fact climbed the social ladder.
Once I finished collecting the thirty something stray, yellow, tennis balls that way scattered around tank. Taking a deep breath I heaved a deep breath and lifted the basket up and placed it down upon the counter-top. A small smile curved upon my lips as I shifted my eyes toward Brook. She was sitting upon the board in perfect lady like fashion. Her hands where folded neatly in her lap. She was sitting straight up too with her perky little chest poking out. Grinning like a fool, I reached down and pulled out a crinkled five dollar bill. I slipped the bill into the cash box and placed the basket of balls under my arm and smiled as I started toward the pitch line.
Brook blinked and blinked again as she noticed that I placed the basket of balls down upon the ground. A deep blush colored her high cheek bones as she noticed that I had just reached down and picked up one of the balls. I placed my left food in front of me, leaned in, placed one hand behind my back and twisted my fingers around the ball.
"Oh! Look at the little freshman." Brook called out. "Going to dunk me little lady!" She called out as she peered toward me, Brook wore a simple loop sided smile as she called out those teasing remark. Like I said before, I'm a freshman and by default I'm the low girl on the social totem pole. And Brook, Brook was like a senior, and also by default she was the high girl on the social totem pole.
A soft smile played across my lips. I knew I was up to be dunked tomorrow afternoon. And since tomorrow happen to be sabbath, the fair would only open after noonday Mass. Meaning I'll be wearing my new two piece swimsuit under my Sunday dress. Okay before I go on, I should say something. Gotta give you guys a sketch of life down south. Now, down here we have something called the 'Blue Laws' those are local laws that put restrictions on what you can and can't do on Sunday. For example, Louisiana along with her sister state Mississippi has limited the hours a mall can be open. Most malls open at twelve in the afternoon and close at six in the evening. Mom and pop owned liqueur stores close there doors, most mom and pop owned shops are closed as well. But you big box stores, like Dollar General, Fred's and of course Walmart keep there normal business hours, along with the local Sunflower Food store. McDonald's of course is open like it normally does, twenty four hours a day seven days a week. The local movie playhouse is also open as normal and mom and pop owned cafe's and restaurants do a thriving business.
Anyway, I was up to be dunked tomorrow afternoon and since I was going to be dunked, I thought I might as well as given a few dunking ahead of time. Starting with Brook here.
"Going to dunk you real good!" I cried out. As I placed one foot down in front of me and started to wind up a fast ball. I was fairy sure I could hit the target, after all, I had grown up with a older brother who loved everything to do with baseball. So I had been tossing balls since I took my first step.
"Oh!" Brook cried out. "Then bring it on sister!" She said smirking as she peered toward me with a grin. "How about we make a little wager." She then closed her eyes and grinned. "That is, if your women enough for it?"
"I'm all ears." I said as I tossed the ball back and forth.
"Okay if you can sink me, I'll go ahead and buy you something to eat from one of the food trucks, like a chicken tender box or something. If not, you gotta go up here and take the rest of my shift. So, do we have a deal?" Brook wearing a smirk that reached from one side of her face to the other.
"Deal." I decided as I wrapped my fingers around the ball and focused my eye toward the target. I took a deep breath as I drew the ball back and released the breath as I tossed the ball toward the target. The ball sailed through the air and smashed into the metal trigger. A second later, the seat that was holding Brook up dropped and Brook dropped like a stone. Through the viewing window, I could her see her splashing around for a few seconds before she broke the surface of the water.
A deep pout graced her face as she came to the edge of the tank and peered her face. Wiping some of the water from her face she sighed as she floated toward the drop seat and after a few minutes she finally got the thing shoved back into place. She was just about to climb out of the tank and take the seat again when I decided to call out.
"Hey girl!" I said walking toward the dunking booth. I noticed the pavement in front of the tank was slick with water, no doubt some of the water from the tank had splashed over the edge and soaked the pavement. "Why don't you get dried off and get something to eat. Come on, you've been up there a full hour. You need a break, why don't you let me cover the next hour." I paused and then added "Or two,"
Brook smiled as she climbed out of the tank. "You now for a freshman, your alright girl." She said smiling softy as she jumped down and reached over and wrapped her arms around my neck and pulled me into a tight hug. "Gotta warn you though, the water is cold, so be prepared." And with that being said, she started to walk away. I watched her go, once she had vanished behind a nearby ice cream van, I turned my attention toward the tank. Taking a deep breath, I walked behind the tank, and started to climb the ladder. Soon I found myself crawling over to the drop down seat. Once seated, I started to wiggle my bottom till I was almost hanging off the edge, then to my horror I noticed, that in my rush to climb up here, I had forgotten to remove my shoes. Oh well, I decided, they'll just have to stay on for the time being.
And so, perched high above the tank of water, I waited. From my high vantage point, I could see all the way down the street.
To be continued~